September 12, 2013

An Industry Of Umpires

In baseball, the players play the game and the umpires' make sure there is a smooth and decorous process.

The fans come to see the talent of the players. When umpires impose themselves disproportionately on the flow of the game they are roundly booed.

The best umpires are the ones who are virtually invisible. The worst umpires are the ones who think the game is about them.

A very strange phenomenon has happened in the advertising industry. Almost unnoticed, the umpires have taken over the game.

The players -- the people who actually make the ads -- have been marginalized. They are now "support."

The business is in such a state of disarray that the umpires are playing the game. The account managers, the planners, the strategists and data analysts are now taking the at-bats and running the bases.

There has always been a certain type of activist "umpire" in the ad business. Like in baseball, the really good ones are catalysts for a smoother, more enjoyable and better played game. The really bad ones think the game is about them.

The sad thing is that while baseball fans would never pay to watch umpires play ball,  clients are actually more comfortable with this arrangement.

Something has gone very wrong. Either the players no longer have the talent to keep the paying customers interested, or the customers have forgotten what the game is about.


Cecil B. DeMille said...

And when you can award yourself a base or a home run while calling everyone else out, there's no game anymore. You're just playing with yourself.

Ryan Wallman said...

This is a superb analogy of what is happening not just in advertising, but in business generally. It reminds me of this cartoon.